‘The Watch’ is a Hilarious Return to Form for Frat Pack Stars (*****)

Saturday, July 28, 2012
By Kevin Crossman

The Watch opened this weekend to very mediocre business. Some might say it had a double case of tough luck, having to change it’s title in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting and then opening a week after the massacre by derranged vigilante in Colorado. Both events touched up on the nominal themese of the film. And while apologists might say the film was doomed at the box office once the real bullets started flying, even the most loyal fans would say there’s not exactly a whole lot going on here you’ve never seen before.

Ben Stiller in The Watch

Ben Stiller in The Watch

According to the formula, when you have pairing in Frat Pack films there is a “loud one” and a “quiet one.” In this case, Ben Stiller stars as an uptight community organizer in a white bread town in Ohio while Vince Vaughn plays, well, Vince Vaughn and gets to be the loud one. It’s a role reversal for the two Dodgeball stars, but truth be told both are in their comfort zones. Vaughn in particular really gets to let loose for the first time in years and delivers some crazy and funny lines. Yes, nothing new to see, but there is plenty of funny. Stiller channels his Along Came Polly character and I thoroughly enjoyed his comedic timing and this is easily his funniest role since Tropic Thunder.

When we have a trio of stars the formula states that the third one must be the “weird one” (see: The Hangover, Old School). Jonah Hill gets to pick up this baton and does so with aplomb. Hill takes bits of his 21 Jump Street failed-cop character an combines them with a borderline psychotic personality and overall is the freshest thing in the film. He’s really funny.

Lastly, writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg know that the formula for the film follows Ghostbusters and says that the fourth guy in the group must be a minority. So, enter black Brit Richard Ayoade. I’m not familiar with Ayoade’s other roles but he does deliver some funny lines and seems to blend well with the group.

All of which is a long way of saying that despite the release troubles and despite the lack of groundbreaking characters or performances you most definitely should seek out The Watch, which is very very funny.

Helping the humor is the alien invasion storyline. You’ve seen some of those bits in the trailers but there’s a very funny scene featuring a dead alien that by itself is worth the admission. The R-rating also helps by allowing Vaughn and Hill to play things bluer than they have in recent films and also to use comic violence as an enhancement to the film. Director Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) does a good job letting the cameras roll and I felt the look of the film worked well for the material.

Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Richard Ayoade, Vince Vaughn in The Watch

Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Richard Ayoade, Vince Vaughn in The Watch

There are two standout supporting performances from Billy Crudup as creepy neighbor of Stiller’s character, and a cocky but incomptent cop played by SNL’s Will Forte who has good interactions with both Stiller and Hill. As the plot progresses, the eccentricies of these characters comes into play as it is learned that the aliens can take human form. Are these two men actually aliens…? Faring less well are Rosemarie Dewitt as Stiller’s wife and Erin Moriarity as Vaughn’s teenage daughter. The domestic plotlines for the two leads don’t really give us an emotional lift until the two male stars bond over a beer while discussing their troubles. ┬áThere’s a very short and sort of gimmicky cameo towards the end of the film (we won’t spoil who…).

The plot of The Watch is no less ridiculous than Dodgeball or Old School or Wedding Crashers. And don’t look for any social satire on the American suburbs. Instead, go in ready to escape for a couple hours with your buddies and have a great ride. The film features some really funny material and if you’re a fan of any of the stars it’s very much worth your time. It’s a lot of fun.


4 Responses to “‘The Watch’ is a Hilarious Return to Form for Frat Pack Stars (*****)”

  1. BillBrasky

    I thought it was really strange how Erinn Hayes (of “Children’s Hospital” and the short-lived sitcom “The Winner”, starring Frat Pack adjacent Rob Corddry) showed up in one tiny scene at the end as Vaughn’s wife. There hadn’t even been a mention of his character’s wife or a glimpse of her up until that point. Considering the plotline of Vaughn’s daughter and her boyfriend that took up a good portion of the movie, it seems weird that all scenes with Hayes must have been cut. Maybe they took a look at the movie and realized the stuff with Stiller and Rosemarie DeWitt wasn’t working at all and decided to cut anything that wasn’t guy-oriented from the rest of the movie.

    Despite that a couple of other weird omissions (why cut Hill’s line “Hey guys, stop talking about cum and come over here for a second”, that was a funny topper to that whole exchange. Without it, the scene just seems kind of gross and stupid), there were funny parts (loved the scene where Vaughn obsesses over the Russian nesting doll), and I thought the cameo in the orgy scene was unexpected and very funny.

  2. Kevin Crossman

    Yes, Vaughn’s wife (or lack thereof) was definitely clunky.

  3. Pru

    Vaughn’s character in one scene says that with his wife having to travel a lot for work the parenting responsibilities lately fell on his shoulders.

  4. Rick

    I like when Jonah gets to be the creepy one. It worked great in Knocked Up. Need to make time to catch this soon


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